EXCLUSIVE: Cineworld reports around 22,000 advance ticket sales for Lionsgate blockbuster; exhibitors upbeat but not bowled over ahead of film’s first previews tonight [22].

Lionsgate’s blockbuster The Hunger Games could be on course for a similar first weekend to Twilight in the UK, with exhibitors generally upbeat but not bowled over by the film’s advance ticket sales.

A Vue executive said the film’s advance ticket sales were tracking “as well as the first Twilight” while a Cineworld analyst said the exhibitor had pre-sold around 22,000 tickets for screenings tonight and across the weekend, a number similar to its sales for 2010 blockbuster Clash of the Titans - which had one preview night and went on to gross £5.7m on its first weekend and £20m total, but was aided by significant 3D uplift.

Twilight opened on £2.5m on its way to £10.8m in 2008, since when ticket prices have risen marginally.

One exhibitor described The Hunger Games’ preview sales as “strong but not spectacular.”

With huge buzz around the Lionsgate blockbuster, Cineworld are showing the film on around 33% more screens per venue than the first Twilight. If other chains follow suit the film could kick well beyond the eOne giant.

The film is expected to go out on around 560 screens this weeken while Twilight went out on approximately 446 in 2008.

In the US, conservative tracking estimates put the film’s opening box-office take at around $85m, with some industry saying it could reach $130 million to $140 million.